The real sports town: Jimmy Butler and Miami

MIAMI, FL – APRIL 14: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat celebrates after making a shot while being fouled against the Chicago Bulls at Kaseya Center on April 14, 2023 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Bryan Cereijo/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Bryan Cereijo / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

My Jimmy Butler pain started with Wayne Huizenga. This was March of 1998, five months to the day that Huizenga’s Marlins won Game 7 of the World Series. They beat a real team from a real city. Had no right but did it anyway. 

Huizenga was the dean of South Florida sports. He had brought the expansion Marlins to the region in 1991, followed by an expansion NHL team, the Panthers, in 1993. The next year, Huizenga bought the Dolphins for close to $140 million. He owned Miami’s NFL, MLB and NHL teams, and in the fall of 1997 his Marlins became Miami’s first major champion since the ’73 Dolphins. For Halloween, the Tribune ran a sidebar on who various sports figures should dress up as; Jerry Reinsdorf, White Sox owner, should be “Wayne Huizenga, World Series winner.”

But Huizenga was unhappy. He had, he said, spent $200 million on the team since its inception with nary a profit to show for it. In the middle of what was becoming a championship season, Huizenga announced that he would sell the club after the year. A World Series win didn’t change that. To ensure that the incoming ownership group wouldn’t be saddled with costs — he noted that the club had lost $34 million that year — Huizenga began unloading his highest paid players. The White Sox hadn’t won the World Series since 1917, the Cubs since 1908. Chicago’s most recent World Series appearance to that point was four decades earlier.

And here was this fifth-year upstart club from Miami fortunate enough to buy their way to a World Series championship (the ’97 Marlins had MLB’s 7th highest payroll at $47.7 million) that was now giving it all away. By the time my brother and I were in Miami that March, my sophomore year of high school, visiting our grandparents, Huizenga had jettisoned the team’s leader in home runs and RBI (Moises Alou), its ace (Kevin Brown), closer (Robb Nen) and Game 7 starter (Al Leiter), its 1st baseman from Opening Day (Jeff Conine) and Game 7 (Darren Daulton) and its starting center fielder (Devon White).

So they got a ring, I thought one day as we drove past Pro Player Stadium, the ballpark where just five months earlier Edgar Renteria had knocked in Craig Counsell to win the World Series in the 11th inning of Game 7. So what. Their heroes are gone. Their team is dead.

They’ll never have what we have.

Continue reading “The real sports town: Jimmy Butler and Miami”

Roger Ebert: The Life & Death of a Chicago Journalist

Jack note: I originally published this piece on my ChicagoNow media blog “Eye on Chi” on April 4, 2013, the day that one of my heroes, Roger Ebert, passed away at age 70. In honor of the 10th anniversary of Roger’s passing, and because the Tribune took ChicagoNow offline, I am republishing it here.

Roger Ebert died a day after declaring that the return of his cancer would finally allow him to meet a life goal: only reviewing movies he wanted to see. As a former film reviewer (though in a way, no one is ever a “former” film reviewer), that declaration made me smile. What steered me away from film review after college was the responsibility of reviewing films like The Glass House and Pokemon 3, that hell-bound realization that — unlike my normal habits — I could not simply abandon the theatre mid-reel and reclaim an hour of my life the way I do now whenever a movie fails to grip me. (I’m looking at you, Slumdog Millionaire.)

So the idea that this great writer would now be free to pursue films at his own pace and ignore anything he did not wish to watch was a big thumbs up. The man had long ago earned that right. A hearty kudos on his way…

Continue reading “Roger Ebert: The Life & Death of a Chicago Journalist”

What do Chicagoans get for our $1.9 billion? A look inside the numbers of public safety and policing

“Our current state of affairs is the direct consequence of a wholesale failure of competant leadership and public safety.”

— Paul Vallas’s “Public Safety” section on

“This campaign has been laser-focused on making sure voters understand that crime and their safety is Paul Vallas’ top priority.” 

— Joe Trippi, Vallas’s chief strategist, Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 24, 2023

“We are not a city and will never be a city that bows to those arguing for de-funding. That’s not who we are. And that’s not what our residents want.”

— Mayor Lori Lightfoot, October 2021


Today is Election Day, our second straight wide open mayoral election, and one question looms larger for me than any other.

What do we get for our $1.9 billion?

That’s the portion of Chicago’s public safety budget that goes to the police department, 64.3% to be exact. For all of the attention on public safety heading into the election, all of the attention on violent crime, and most of the mayoral candidates — led by Mayor Lightfoot and Paul Vallas — pushing increased policing as the solution, no one can say how we judge the success or failure of that spending. 

Continue reading “What do Chicagoans get for our $1.9 billion? A look inside the numbers of public safety and policing”

My Unfinished Inglourious Basterds Essay: 10,000 words, 12 years, one unfinished draft (ANALYSIS)

The cast of Inglourious Basterds, with writer-director Quentin Tarantino (seated, second from right)

On March 9, 2010, I started an essay on Inglourious Basterds.

I wrote it on and off until May of 2011, and then stopped, with no further progress.

Now, in June 2022, I am declaring it officially unfinished for reasons I will explain here. To read my annotated draft of this essay — 10,000+ words, with screenshots from the movie — click here. If you’re a fellow writer and you want to talk shop, you should be able to drop comments directly in the Google Doc. If not, hit me in the comment section here, or on Twitter, or at

Now then… what happened?

Continue reading “My Unfinished Inglourious Basterds Essay: 10,000 words, 12 years, one unfinished draft (ANALYSIS)”

The complete history of Black NFL starting quarterbacks — ranked by franchise

***February 5, 2023 NOTE***

In light of the upcoming Super Bowl LVII becoming the first Super Bowl with two starting Black quarterbacks, I have updated the numbers for the entire 2022 season, with Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts updated through the conference championship games. Super Bowl LVII will give the Eagles 378 games (regular season and playoffs) started by a Black quarterback, and Kansas City 95 games.

IMPORTANT: This is a living document that is now going on three years old. As such, it’s not meant to be read straight through, and there are elements that are outdated, typically labeled as “2021 update,” “2022 update,” etc. I’ll update more this offseason but I wanted to get the numbers up for the Super Bowl. If you see something that looks off, it just might not be updated yet.

What IS updated is the list below (marked “The List”) through the 2022 conference championship weekend. All team sections are updated by numbers of starts but not percentages or other things like that. If you are a journalist or other member of the media and you have a question for me about the numbers, DM me @readjack or email at

***September 7, 2022 NOTE***

This article is about the numbers. Strip away the thousands of words below, and as I lay out in the introduction, the reason I started researching this in 2019 and published it in 2020 was to see the numbers — the team-by-team data around Black starting quarterbacks in the NFL. If you want to just explore the numbers, my spreadsheet is here, and I’ve added the list of teams in order, placed above the team-by-team writeups.

The spreadsheet is now updated with starts data through the 2021 season. As I noted a year ago, I suspect that the spreadsheet still has small errors here and there. I’m a team of one on this, manually pulling information into my spreadsheet from Pro Football Reference and checking it against newspaper reporting and other sources here and there.

I won’t be updating data through the season on any consistent schedule, so as always, if you want to use this piece as a source at any point in the 2022 season and need updated figures, please reach out to me at or DM me on Twitter. Thank you!

I started this project in 2019 to put numbers to the feeling that many Bears fans had that the franchise did not want a Black franchise quarterback. But over the course of this project, the Bears have actually been one of the NFL’s more progressive franchises with regards to race. Toward the end of that list are the Dolphins, Broncos and Giants, the named defendants in coach Brian Flores’s historic 2022 discrimination lawsuit

Flores’s suit is the latest puncture to the myth that just because talent is winning out for Black QBs on the field does not necessarily mean that NFL owners have turned a collective corner with regards to a century-worth of racist policies and personnel decisions. The Flores suit shined a light on racism in NFL coaching while, at the same time, more information and legal fallout around the NFL’s use of “race-norming” in its concussion settlement continued to build.

To me, those events — along with continued problematic scouting, as summarized by Bill Polian’s claim that Lamar Jackson should switch positions to wide receiver — are the reason why simply studying the basic data around Black quarterbacks remains important in 2022 even though on the surface, Black QBs today don’t appear to face the same levels of prejudice and restrictions as did their predecessors. This article is the continued, evolving study of these questions.

Lastly, rest in peace to Marlin Briscoe and Dwayne Haskins.



Continue reading “The complete history of Black NFL starting quarterbacks — ranked by franchise”

An Open Letter to the Chicago Bulls

Open Letter graphic (Chicago Audible design)

Note from Jack: The following is the latest in a series of open letters to the owners of Chicago’s major sports teams, asking them to release stronger, more tangible statements opposing police violence, specifically against Black lives.

We started June 8, with a letter to the McCaskey family, published jointly on Windy City Gridiron, Chicago Audible and Da Bears Blog, along with a letter to Jerry Reinsdorf and White Sox management published at both South Side Sox and South Side Hit Pen.

On June 9, Bleed Cubbie Blue joined us with an open letter to the Ricketts family.

Today, Locked on Bulls and other members of the Bulls community are publishing an open letter to Jerry, Michael and Nancy Reinsdorf. You can read it on Medium, and below.

— Jack Silverstein, June 11, 2020

Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Chicago Bulls”

“With whom do you wish you could have played a scene?” — question for cast members of The Wire

Back in 2014, during The Wire marathon on HBO, I started tweeting to cast members a simple question:

“With whom do you wish you could have played a scene?”

After all, there are so many fabulous actors on The Wire, and many never got to do a scene together, despite so many cast members — regardless of season — becoming friends or at least friendly off camera.

I grouped all of the responses in a Storify file, but unfortunately the site closed down and the post is gone. So I’ve re-configured them here, in order in which I received them, and I’ll keep this post updated if and when I get more.



Continue reading ““With whom do you wish you could have played a scene?” — question for cast members of The Wire”

6 Rings: the true story of the Chicago Bulls dynasty


1996 Bulls GOAT

Twenty years ago, the dynasty ended.

The Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson won six championships in eight seasons and reshaped the NBA forever.

My latest story celebrates their final game together, Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, and completes (for now, I guess) an ongoing series of pieces that I have written over the past 13 years on what was easily my favorite era as a sports fan.

Here, all together, are those pieces about “YOUR World Champion Chicago Bulls!”

I will never get tired of hearing that. Continue reading “6 Rings: the true story of the Chicago Bulls dynasty”

A Look Back At Michael Jordan’s Flu Game 20 Years Later

An unknown stat makes that legendary game even more impressive and helps explain why fans get angry when stars rest.

(Originally published June 8, 2017, at the now defunct

If you want to fully understand Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game,” you first have to understand one of Michael Jordan’s greatest statistics: 357.

It’s a stat that is rarely discussed. The number most associated with MJ, besides 23, is 6. As in “6 rings.” Once upon a time, MJ’s career was defined by a melange of numbers. People thought about 63 and 69. They pictured him in 9 and 45. They were astounded by 7, and later 10, for his scoring titles. They grimaced at .202 and glowed with pride over 72–10.

Now, it’s 6. The only number of consequence. The one MJ chased more than any other. The one to which he drunkenly crooned after reaching it in 1998. He started counting after the first championship, flashing victorious fingers. Two in 1992. Three in ’93. Four in ’96. Five in ’97. Six in ‘98.

No number in NBA history serves as more of a mic drop in current hoops debates than MJ’s 6. The figure may be augmented in different ways, like “6–0” (his Finals record) or “6 for 6” (his Finals MVPs). But, unquestionably, 6 is the number. He likes it like that.

I like it too. I also like 357. Continue reading “A Look Back At Michael Jordan’s Flu Game 20 Years Later”

Debunking the bogus “Colin Kaepernick is bad — he went 1-10” argument

The 2017 NFL season begins tonight, and every argument about why Colin Kaepernick remains out of the NFL has been debunked — except one.

“He is bad — he went 1-10!”


Yes, Kaepernick was 1-10 last season for the 2-14 49ers, but history tells us that a crappy record in merely one season is not enough to land a quarterback on the NFL’s unemployment list.

After all, Kaepernick’s 2016 was the 38th time in NFL/AFL history in which a quarterback in at least his 6th season won 3 or fewer games while losing 9 or more. Thirty-one quarterbacks other than Kaepernick produced such a season. Only two never played again. Continue reading “Debunking the bogus “Colin Kaepernick is bad — he went 1-10” argument”